Five: random blog survey

Hi friends,

How was everyone’s January? Does anyone else feel like you blinked and suddenly the month was over? I’m very excited for the next couple of weeks, as I have a couple of things on the horizon, which I’m not quite ready to share on here yet, but once finalised- will be quite exciting :) It should all be sorted in the next week or so, so I will keep you guys posted.

As it’s late on a Sunday night for me, I thought I would share a fun blog post I saw over on pbfingers.com a couple of days ago. So, here we go:

Five: A random blog survey (changed a bit from original version)

FIVE PLACES I’M DYING TO GO VISIT

  1. Egypt
  2. Japan
  3. Australia
  4. Amalfi Coast, Italy
  5. Cape Town, South Africa

FIVE FOODS I EAT EVERY DAY

  1. A smoothie for breakfast
  2. Fruit in the afternoon (right now, green grapes)
  3. Chocolate (currently obsessed with Lindt caramel with sea salt. AMAZING!)
  4. Wine (usually red)
  5. Almonds

FIVE TALENTS I WISH I HAD

  1. I wish I could draw/paint
  2. Singing (I’m terrible)
  3. Speaking another language (or many other languages!)
  4. I would love to be very flexible and be able to get into some of the crazy yogi moves that I can’t even dream of
  5. Interior decorating- my house is always a hodge podge of decorations that never really seem to meld together

FIVE MOVIES I COULD WATCH ON REPEAT

  1. Elf
  2. Billy Madison
  3. Sex and the City
  4. Pitch Perfect (either 1 or 2)
  5. All Disney movies

FIVE RANDOM THINGS I DID YESTERDAY

  1. Went shopping with Assen for men’s suits
  2. Drank an over priced fresh juice while out shopping because I was super thirsty
  3. Read an entire book in one sitting
  4. Baked a blueberry lemon loaf
  5. Played on buzzfeed for longer than I’m willing to admit

FIVE THINGS I DO AT WORK EVERYDAY

  1. Spend at least an hour checking my emails
  2. Message Assen on our Lynced in system
  3. Check blogs in the afternoon
  4. Drink at least 2 cups of coffee
  5. Feel stressed out about the amount of work I have to do

FIVE THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY AND GRATEFUL EVERY DAY

  1. Morning cuddles
  2. Coffee
  3. Friends (especially messaging with my friends back in Canada and knowing how they are)
  4. Planning a holiday (while I might not do this everyday, I think about traveling pretty much every day)
  5. Knowing how lucky I am with the life I’m leading, and even my biggest problems are truly very small in the scheme of things

I’d love to hear from you guys for any of the above!

I’ll be back next week with my recap of New Years in Edinburgh :)

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Christmas markets in Munich

Hi friends,

Hope you guys enjoyed the switch up last week around GMO’s. I’ve come to accept that I generally have very strong opinions, therefore I can see this becoming a semi-regular posting series around various things happening in the world- not just GMO’s, but finances, news events, food waste, etc. I’m not ever saying my opinions are right, so please always feel free to tell me your thoughts on the matter!

Switching back to my usual style of blogging, today is my recap of Munich! Assen and I headed there for a short 3 day trip pre-Christmas and I absolutely loved it.We were really back and forth about our Christmas plans this year, as it was Assen’s mom’s birthday on the 26th, and she wanted to go somewhere on her birthday. Therefore, in late November and early December, we spent a lot of times looking into different options for her birthday- we looked at Canary Islands, Malta, Croatia- but since it was around Christmas/New Year’s plus we were looking into it so late, everything was very expensive! Finally, around Dec 15 we decided she would come and see us for New Years , and that freed up our time pre-Christmas to go on a trip just Assen and I. We ended up booking our trip 5 days before we left!

We stayed in an amazing place with Air BnB- which I’ve realised I always say that and never give the link for where I stayed. If you’re staying in Munich, honestly, I can’t recommend this place enough. He was super punctual on getting back to us, left us food for breakfast and beer in the fridge! He also had a book put together of good places to eat around him, so when we arrived late on Sunday, we tried out the Greek restaurant he recommended (which was AMAZING) and then went back to our place where we shared a beer, and planned out what we would do the next day.

The morning of the 21st, we were up at a good time and took the train to Marienplatz. If you’re ever going to Germany- prepare for everything to be a “platz” which translates to “place”. Marienplatz is the central square in Munich, so is a great starting point for the city. Also- there’s a Christmas market right in the square, so it was perfect for why we were there- the Christmas markets!

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This building is the city hall. While we didn’t go inside, we admired it from many different angles as it was a truly breath-taking building. Also- Marienplatz had free wifi, so we often were standing by this building while loading Google maps for our next location!

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While I love the Christmas markets, I find I never end up buying anything from them. They sell the usual trinkets you would expect- a lot of food options, drink options, Christmas decorations, etc. German markets had beautiful hand-crafted wood figurines, which I would’ve loved to buy- but it always comes back to the question “How would we get it home?” especially on this trip, since we only had hand luggage. Instead of buying anything, we just wandered around, and then starting wandering from the center of the city, until we found the City Wall, by Karlsplatz.

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They had a skating rink, Christmas music playing, and, my favourite, mulled wine. Assen and I enjoyed a cup of it while watching people skate. I will warn everyone going to Munich- be cautious of the punch! After about one cup, you can feel the liquor in your veins- that stuff is strong!

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Unfortunately at this point, we had been wandering around for a couple of hours, were getting kind of cold, and then- it started raining! I hate wandering around in the rain (though, as evidenced by my trip to Budapest- I will do it). We knew our trip was short, so wanted to use every second we had to explore the city. To find something to do indoors, we ended up climbing the stairs in St. Peter’s church, to see the roof-tops of Munich.

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I think I’ve said it before, but I love the roof-top views of cities, and always try to find at least one place whenever I’m in a new city. However, while I love the views- I don’t enjoy the stairs! They’re often wind around a tight circle (making you dizzy when you make your way down) and if you’re claustrophobic, then you would not enjoy it! Assen snapped a picture of me in this stairwall, just to demonstrate how small the space was.

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It was still raining by the time we made our way out of the church, so we decided it was time for one of the most famous sites in Munich.

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Hofbrauhaus is one of the more famous beer halls in Munich. Munich has 6 breweries within the city walls, and they’re all sold at various pubs and beer halls. The reason they don’t move out of the city borders (where real estate would be much cheaper) is because of a little beer festival called Oktoberfest. Only the beers brewed within the city are sold during Oktoberfest- and obviously the sales of beer during that time make up for larger real estate costs.

Hofbrauhaus is actually owned by the Government, as when German’s old royal family stepped down, they “gifted” many things to the Government, including the brewery (though Assen and I have spent some time speculating how forced this gifting was). The hall was founded in 1589 and is one of Munich’s oldest beer hall. It’s a bit of a tourist trap- with the live music playing, and the gift shop in the back but I absolutely loved it and thought it was beautiful. I snapped a few pictures of the ceiling, but ended up missing the band that was playing.

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Assen and I each ordered our beers, which come out in a Litre cup. I ordered a “weiss beer” with lemonade (weiss beer is a wheat beer and is a bit sweeter) and Assen had just the house kind. I couldn’t finish mine- despite the fact that we ate full meals and sat there for quite some time.

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After our beer and food, we went back to Marienplatz, which was all lit up with Christmas lights, as well as some beautiful live Christmas caroling. We hung around for awhile, just listening to the singers and finally feeling in the Christmas mood.

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We headed home pretty early that first day, as we had a big day the next day. When I had first started looking into “What to do in Munich”, one of the big things that popped up was the Neuschwanstein castle. Made famous by “Sleeping Beauty”, which the castle in the Disney movie is inspired by, the castle was built in nineteenth century and is truly beautiful. It’s a bit of a trek from Munich, so we booked a day long tour and made a day of it.

First up, was this beautiful small town, Oberammergau, which is famous for its wood carvings. I loved this little town as it was so small and quaint, and had beautiful paintings on the building. We had some time to check out the cuckoo clocks here, and wander around before we headed back on the bus.

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Next up was the castle Linderhof. Because it was a guided tour, while on the bus, we learnt a bit about Kind Ludwig II, who built both Linderhof and Neuschwanstein castle. He was an interesting character! He was the King from 1864, however, was very disillusioned with his rule, since he wanted to be an absolute monarch, but at that time, was more of a figurehead as Germany had elected officials (also he was the King of Bravia, which only made up a small part of the country Germany). He was obsessed with building, building 3 castles during his rule, and having plans in place for another 2. As he aged, he got quite fat and lost a lot of his teeth, therefore he created these palaces so he would never have to see anyone- including features like a table that could be raised into the kitchen, so not even a servant would have to bring him his food.

Because of the cost of his castle, officials decided they needed to get him out of power, and had a psychiatrist declare him insane, and therefore he was removed from power. The day after this all happened, the psychiatrist came to visit him where he was being kept outside of Munich, and the two of them went for a walk around the grounds. They were later found both drowned in a lake, and to this day, no one knows what happened.

Assen and I had decided not to go inside this castle (as it was extra from our tour and only a 20 minute tour on the inside), so we wandered up to the outside of the castle to enjoy the view and then wandered around the grounds while discussing the story of King Ludwig.

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After that castle, we headed back on the bus for our final stop of the day- Neuschwanstein. I was excited!

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The castle was beautiful! It was never finished (due to the King being removed from power and then passing away), so the tour is around only those rooms which are finished. Unfortunately you can’t take pictures inside the castle, so I don’t have any from inside, but even the outside was breathtaking.

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It was a great day- and definitely worth the price for the tour. By the time we got back, it was about 7 pm, and we were pretty tired from the day so we had a quick dinner (at a different beer hall) and then headed to bed.

Our final day in Munich was a beautiful sunny day. We decided to walk from our place, up to the English Gardens, which are another big thing to see while you’re in Munich. We under-estimated how far we actually were from the gardens however, so by the time we even got to the entrance, we had already walked 12 km’s, and had been walking for quite some time. However the entire time we were walking along the water, so it was a beautiful walk.

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After all that walking, we decided we were ready to sit for awhile and enjoy the last couple of hours of our trip. We felt like we had seen many of the main sites to see in Munich, but hadn’t kept ourselves so busy that we hadn’t enjoyed our time together.

Usually while on holiday, I try and eat at different places every time, however for Munich- we decided we would go back to Hofbrauhaus and enjoy one more beer (and the pretzels, which were AMAZING). This time, I captured the band while they were playing!

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After enjoying all the food we could stuff into ourselves, and a couple of beers, we were back to the airport for a late flight home!

I absolutely loved Munich- and Assen and I are already discussing the possibility of going back to experience Oktoberfest. There are also other cities in Germany which I’d love to see, so I hope to be back to this great country soon.

Has anyone else been to Munich, or anywhere else in Germany?

Do we need GMO’s?

Hi friends,

So my post today may be a little bit controversial, so I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on it.But recently, I’ve been doing some research and I have come to the conclusion that GMO’s are not as bad as they’re often made out to be.

For those that aren’t familiar, GMO’s are Genetically Modified Organisms. Any organism whose genetic material have been altered using genetic engineering techniques. And they get a ton of bad press.  Google “GMO” the articles are all about why to avoid them, why they’re bad, etc.

In our society, we are really bad for finding a story and running with it. Whether it be deciding that gluten is bad, without understanding what gluten actually is; blaming corporations for being evil companies with the intention only to make profit no matter who is hurt in the process; or blaming the food industry for all terrible atrocities; we all want a scapegoat that we can point our finger at to blame them for the issues.

Now, I am not saying that GMOs are great and we should eat all of them. But what I am saying is when I started looking into research of GMOs, what I found shattered my previous thoughts. And I wanted to share with you guys, to see what your thoughts were on it.

First, let’s acknowledge the need for GMO. Today, the world currently has 7.25 billion people. By 2050, it is expected the population will be 9.6 billion people. Already, people around the world starve to death everyday (and I realise that it’s partially a distribution problem- trust me, food waste is another topic I’ll be coming to soon). But- add in the changing climate, with global warming, droughts around the world, the issues with factory farming animals; and there is a very big question that needs to be asked. How can we expect to feed an ever-growing planet of people?

Generally, the bad press about GMO’s focuses on the fact that they are unsafe and cause health issues. Websites such as The non-GMO project state that no GMO traits have been proven to increase yield of a product, enhanced nutrition, drought tolerance or any other consumer benefit. They also state that most countries consider them unsafe. Having never looked into it until a few weeks ago, that was always my thought about GMOs- they were unsafe, and we didn’t have a need.

The other big issue with GMOs is that they are manufactured by large corporations. The name “Monsanto” is known by almost everyone as a terrible corporation. As they have provided the technology of the seed with the increased resistance to herbicides and pesticides, they want to protect that technology and have patented it. There is an infamous case of a Canadian farmer, who didn’t even buy the seed but wind blew the seed onto his farmland. He was sued (successfully) by Monsanto for growing this product without having paid for the use of it. On the non-GMO project website, they state instances like this are a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country that they grown.

So let’s look into these issues, shall we?

First up: are GMOs safe?

On the website The Facts about GMOs, there are 8 links that look into the safety of GMOs. One of which is a 10 year study that the EU participated in. The publication ultimately produced also links in other studies from the past 15 years, therefore covering 25 years in total. This study looked at 50 projects, involving more than 400 research groups, and represents research grants worth more than 200 million Euros. The study focuses on both scientific unknowns of GMOs, but also public concerns about the potential environment impacts of GMOs, food safety, the co-existence of non-GMOs and GMO crops, and risk assessment strategies. The general conclusion of this study?

GMOs are not more risky than conventional plant breeding technology.

The truth is that GM crops are heavily regulated by several government bodies. And while I know a lot of people don’t trust the government, even in the US, the Food and Drugs Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Agriculture, Animal and and Plant Health Inspection Services are all involved to approve a GM crop to be allowed to grow. That’s a lot of red tape to jump through before it’s ever even approved to be grown.

Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects. One of the most notorious studies for GMO crops being unsafe, was a paper that claimed rats fed with GM potatoes suffered from damage to gut mucosa. But this paper was investigated by The Royal Society, and they have determined that the study was flawed and no conclusions could be drawn from it.

Based on this, GMOs do not appear to be unsafe.

Second issue is around the corporations who sell them.

One thing I’ve learnt, especially having been a business student in University, is people love to blame corporations. Enron collapses and the people who suffered were not the executives, but the many employees. The economic recession hit in 2009, and banks received major bail-outs from the government and then paid their executives a bonus whereas people around the world were out of work and losing everything. People see these examples as proof that all corporations are flawed and inherently evil.

Monsanto is the best example of a corporation that people love to hate. Google Monsanto and what do you see? “Millions march against Monsanto”, “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear”, “Monsanto and the conspiracy to kill”, “Why the climate corporation sold itself to Monsanto”.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that Monsanto is the best company in the world. I believe some of the things they have done are terrible, specifically in the past with Agent Orange (which is a huge other issue). But- I don’t believe it is the monster it is played out to be.

Monsanto is an agriculture company, who produces the seeds sold for GMOs. There is a fantastic article called “Why does everyone hate Monsanto” which looks at how the company has changed, from a chemical company in early 1900s, to selling the division and getting into agriculture and bio genetics research in the 80’s.

The article looks at the fact that Monsanto patents its seeds. As a corporation, it makes sense. A corporation exists to make money. How can it make money if it gives a product away for free?

I’ve often heard the argument against Monsanto patenting its seeds because this no longer allows farmers to use their harvest for seeds as next year (therefore saving costs). However, recently, I was speaking to a PhD graduate from the University of Leeds, whose dissertation was written around cross-breeding insects with cotton to make a more resistant cotton. He was telling me that these seeds were never approved or sold, due to the bad press that they received after being announced.

My Conclusion?

I can see why GMO’s serve a purpose, and from looking into it, they appear to be safer than what I had always assumed based off of popular opinion.

I’m curious though- what does everyone else think?

Trip to NYC

Hi friends,

Hope everyone had a good first week back to work! Mine felt like it lasted for ages- so I hope everyone else felt like theirs went by faster.

I thought I’d start out the New Year, with continuing to catch up on my travels from 2015. Where I last left off on my travels was after getting home from Budapest, and getting ready to fly to New York.

Well, after a night of no sleep, and a flight that went by very quickly (thank goodness for eye masks and ear plugs), we had arrived.

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Assen and I often will stay at AirBnB places- as I find they are cheaper than hotels, and I love the idea of being able to save money by making my own food. Truth be told, I’ve never made anything besides coffee and bought some yogurt and fruit for breakfast- but even that adds up after a few days!

For this trip, Assen had found us a beautiful place to stay in, which was just a 40 minute train ride away, as we were staying in Brooklyn. Assen’s dad lives just an hour away from New York, so we wanted to have the option of him staying with us for a night, and the place we ended up staying at was a 2 bedroom apartment. Honestly- I loved it. It was a tad far away from Manhattan, but once we bought ourselves a week Metro card, we were good to go for the rest of the trip.

On our first night, we were feeling a tad jet-lagged, but still wanted to try and do something. So we went to the most obvious place, and wandered around Time Square.

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I love Time Square- the advertisements, the people- it’s a great start to feel like you’re in New York. Plus, when you’re feeling tired because your body thinks it’s 3 am, all of the lights really make you feel more awake.

We also wandered over to Rockefeller Center. Since we hadn’t researched the trip much beforehand, we weren’t sure if the Christmas tree would be lit up, and sadly it was still being decorated when we were there. However, even seeing how big the tree truly is- I can’t imagine how beautiful it must be lit up (it’s hidden behind the GIANT 2015 sign)

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After wandering around for a couple of hours, we decided to call it a night and head back to our place to get some sleep.

The next day we were very lazy in the morning, especially since with the time change we were both awake quite early, but didn’t actually end up leaving our apartment until about noon. Assen wanted to see the Brooklyn bridge, and I wanted a few pictures of the beautiful Manhattan skyline, so we started off by our side of the island.

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Often times, Assen will take my camera, and take multiple angle pictures of me. I’m sure we look incredibly strange as a couple, as he’ll be directing me how to move, and I’m laughing while trying to complete his instructions. The below pictures are just a couple of the many, many pictures I have like this- but they always make me smile when I see them.

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After spending some time (and taking far too many pictures) by the water, we headed into Manhattan and down to Wall Street. We found the New York Stock Exchange building, which I have to admit was a little underwhelming to see in person. Both Assen and I are accountants, so we spend a lot of our time working on clients which trade on the NYSE, therefore to see the building which is the cause of many, many hours of our lives was almost more depressing than exciting.

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We also wandered around (eating some very disappointing pretzels!) and found the bull in New York.

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Finally, for that afternoon, we wandered into Chinatown, and Little Italy for all the sites.

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We finished our wandering for the day and found a small Vietnamese restaurant that was serving hot pho. It was quite a cold day, and we had been outside for hours at this point, so it was so nice to eat some hot food, and warm up for awhile.

We had purchased live comedy tickets for that night, as we decided going to see anything on Broadway wouldn’t make much sense, since all the shows also play in London. However, we got slightly scammed for our comedy tickets. On our first night, we were at Times Square, and a guy was selling tickets on the street. Now, this should’ve been our first clue, however I heard him saying that Tina Fey had played there the night before (and I LOVE Tina Fey), so I stopped to listen to his spiel. He told us all about the people who were included in the show, and they were all well known actors- not super famous, but I had at least heard of all of them. He sold us the tickets for $10 each (which should’ve been our second clue), and off we went. When we went to the show the following night, well- it was all local artists, and the crowd was about 95% friends and family. The place had a 2 drink minimum, and after Assen and I each had our two drinks, plus tip, we ended up spending $70! We still enjoyed the night, but was certainly not the show we had been promised. So lesson learnt! Don’t buy tickets from strangers in Time Square.

The next day was raining all day, so Assen and I took a bus to New Jersey and spent the entire day shopping at an outlet mall (by the end of the day, we had walked 13 km just around the mall). I bought myself a new winter jacket, and a couple of shirts, and Assen bought himself some clothing as well. I don’t have any pictures from that day, so I’ll skip ahead to the following day, which started off with an iconic building

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Now, for those of you who have been following this blog for awhile (or know me in person), you’ll know that I am obsessed with tea, and specifically, David’s Tea. However, you can’t buy it in the UK. Therefore, anytime I’m in Canada, I always stock up as much as I can- and my friends often send me care packages with extra tea. Therefore, one of the first things I researched when Assen and I booked this trip was whether there was a David’s Tea in New York…and then I convinced Assen that we absolutely had to go.

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It was a good stock up trip.

After we had completed that essential stop, we headed over to the Empire State Building, as I wanted to go to the top of the building.

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Thankfully, when we were there wasn’t very busy. When you go to the top, there are two ticket options which you can buy, which is to go to the 80th floor, or to go to both the 80th floor and the 100th floor. If you choose the option with both floors, you can also upgrade yourself do avoid the queue. There were several people selling tickets outside the building, and Assen chatted it up with the one guy for long enough that at the end, he told us to just buy tickets for the 80th floor, as it was a quiet day and we wouldn’t be missing anything by not going up further.  Even though we just bought the normal tickets,  it only took us about 40 minutes before we were outside and snapping pictures.

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It truly is impressive how high up you are. I kept on trying to find landmarks to compare how high we were, compared to other buildings we had seen on the ground.

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After enjoying for quite some time, we finally headed back down to check out one final famous landmark area- Central Park.

We arrived as the sun was starting to set, so didn’t want to spend too much time in the park, but sat by the water for awhile and chatted with our coffees, and then wandered through the park to come out on 5th Avenue. DSC05931

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That night, Assen’s dad came into New York, and we went out for delicious sushi with him- unfortunately, I did not snap any pictures from that entire evening.

The next day, we drove out to Long Island, and had lunch with Assen’s cousin and her husband. Thankfully they were aware of traffic in New York, and advised us to head to the airport with a lot of advance time before our flight. Next time I’m in New York- I will take the subway rather than sitting in a car! It took us 3 hours to drive from Long Island to the airport! And this was on a Saturday, so it wasn’t even rush hour! Thankfully we had left with enough time, so we didn’t miss our flight.

Because we had booked our flight so last minute, to get a reasonably priced flight, on the return trip we couldn’t get a direct flight. Instead we flew to Toronto, and then had an 9 hour layover- between 11 pm and 8 am. We decided getting a hotel wouldn’t be worth it, so we spent the night at the airport. I tried sleeping with my body wrapped around my bag, but after shivering for a couple of hours, I finally admitted defeat and just read my book for a few hours. However, it was finally time to go through security in the morning, and before leaving, I bought a few gifts to commemorate Assen’s first trip to Canada

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And then just a short 7 hour flight, and 2 hour drive later, we were back home again.

I’m heading back to New York in May with a friend- does anyone have any tips of things I missed which I should see? If you’ve been before- what was your favourite landmark?

New Years Resolutions

Welcome to 2016!

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I don’t know about you guys, but I love the idea of a new year.

I love it because of the idea of a fresh start. It allows everyone to reflect on their life over the past 12 months, and find inspiration to implement positive changes, as well as get rid of old habits that are no longer serving them.

As part of that, I have been looking back over my past year, and reflecting on 2015. Overall, 2015 was a great year for me!

I traveled to 15 countries (if we include Iceland, where I had a 4 hour layover and didn’t leave the airport). I like the idea of 15 countries in 2015, so am going with it for consistency. The countries I traveled to were: France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, UK (technically I was already in Great Britain but considering I traveled to new areas, I’m counting it), Bulgaria, Iceland, Canada, Austria, Hungary, USA, Germany and Scotland. (I promise I’ll get up to date shortly for the trips which I don’t have links for).

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I watched my best friend get married.

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Assen and I celebrated a year of dating, and have grown closer as we navigate living and working together (and vacationing together).

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Along with the positives, there were also a lot of challenging moments. Family members were sick, I was working long hours throughout most of the year, being homesick for family and friends, and just general life frustrations. However, overall I look back at 2015 and it makes me smile to remember everything that’s happened!

Last year, I had set myself a few resolutions. Overall, I did ok but definitely didn’t make them all. My resolutions from last year, plus how I did on each of them are:

  • Pay off all my debt- this one I did the best on. I’m happy to report that I became officially debt free in September of this year. I’m really proud of this one, as when I first graduated from University, 5 years ago, I had dug myself into a bit of a mess. I was ashamed of how much debt I was in, and tried to ignore the fact that I had incurred this debt. However, after a good shake from my mom, I started looking at my finances. And slowly, I started paying it off. As the amount grew closer and closer to 0, I found myself so excited. I started looking for ways that I could pay it off sooner. That final payment felt so good! I’m very excited to be entering 2016 completely debt free!
  • Start blogging again- in this post, I announced I was coming back to blogging after taking more than a year away from blogging. However, as the year continued, there were a few pauses which I meant to only be a week but suddenly 2 or 3 weeks had passed…and then a couple of months passed with no entries. I’m proud of myself for continuing, and I did the best I could given my work schedule, but I’d like to be more consistent with my blogging moving forward.
  • Stop hitting snooze on my alarm- this one I failed within the first week of the year. I am NOT a morning person, and when my alarm goes off in the morning, I kind of just want to die. I have my first alarm that goes off at 6:30, which is for if I’m getting up early to work out. That one is immediately turned off in the morning (I have gotten up with this alarm a total of 5 times in the entire year and that’s only because I had friends challenge me to actually do it for a week). My next alarm goes off at 7:15, and that’s my “I’m going to look nice for work” alarm. Sometimes I’ll hit snooze until as late as 8 am, which then means I have about 20 minutes to get ready and be leaving the house- and means I’ll be arriving at work late. I know that time doesn’t actually make me more rested- but I struggle a lot to get out of bed in the morning!

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Mmm- bed! (Full disclosure- this is not my bed at home. This was my bed while in Costa Rica, completing my yoga teacher training).

After reviewing 2015, and thinking about what I want for 2016, I have come up with the below targets:

  • Save money- I have a specific amount that I’m striving towards, which I’d rather not share on here. But my goal is to save that throughout the year. I’ve been renting for the past 11 years and would love to own my own home. However, to do that, I need to have some money saved for a down payment. I don’t think I’ll be purchasing anything until 2017 or 2018, but am beginning to put the plan into action.
  • Start meditating- I have read so many articles which speak about the benefits of meditating. I’ve resisted for a very long time for one simple fact- I don’t like meditating! I struggle to sit still and just can’t bear to sit down and do it. Which is ridiculous considering its only 5 minutes! So my goal is to meditate at least 3 times each week, for a minimum time of 5 minutes each time.
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  • Start regularly (at least a couple times a month) doing a hobby- this one is more general as I don’t know what hobby I’d like it to be. But after spending much of 2015 working all the time, when work slowed down in November, I didn’t know what to do with myself! I watched a lot of Netflix, and felt bored! While it was really nice to have the opportunity to feel bored and just relax for a couple of months, I’d really like to find something more productive to do with my time. Maybe it will be baking more often (something I used to really enjoy), or regularly going swimming (something I also used to love), or finding something completely new like learning a language, or knitting, or who knows what! But it’s just something to do. This will hopefully decrease my time in front of my computer, watching Netflix and scrolling through Facebook updates!

How about everyone else? Do you love or hate New Years? Did you set any resolutions for 2015- and if so, how did you do? And, finally, did you set any new resolutions for 2016? I’d love to hear about it :)

Part 2- my 2 day trip to Budapest

Hi all,

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a great ringing in for 2016. I have a post coming up about resolutions, including my own for 2016! Hopefully will be a big year :)

Thanks for enjoying my last post, about Vienna. Continuing on for my trip, is my 2 day trip to Budapest. As I had said on my last post, I had arranged to take the train from Vienna to Budapest. However, when I first arrived at the train station in Vienna, I was incredibly confused!

I don’t know if I’ve ever said this, but two things I’ve learnt from my travels is that (one) you have to be willing to look like a complete noob and (two) you have to be willing to ask people for help. No one looks cool when trying to figure out where you are with a huge map infront of you (or your cell phone and your pointing it in all 4 directions so that you can figure which way you’re supposed to start walking). It’s going to happen and you just have to role with it! Asking people for help is also huge! This is something that I’m not great at, and I suffer because of it. Generally, people are incredibly helpful and willing to point you in the right direction. When I arrived at the Vienna train station, I couldn’t find any mention of my train to Budapest. As the Paris attacks were very recent, I began to panic that my train had been cancelled. Had I just asked someone, they would’ve directed me upstairs, to where there was a larger board showing all trains. However, instead I wandered around for nearly 30 minutes before I found where I needed to go.

Thankfully, my train was still scheduled to leave as planned, and I still had some time to kill by the time I sorted everything out.

While waiting for my train, I ended up getting into a conversation with an Australian girl who was also traveling by herself, and her and I ended up sitting beside each other for the train journey. It made my entire day brighter because of this- as her and I traded travel stories, and I think I laughed the entire time. My favourite part was that she was keeping a list of everything she had learnt during her travels, and it included very potent things (such as, people are deeper than you think) as well as silly things (it’s amazing how long you can hold your pee when there are no toilets in sight).

Sadly, once arriving in Budapest, we were both staying in different areas, so we went our separate ways. However, having someone to talk with during the train was a great break in a trip on my own. Once arriving in Budapest (and checking into my hotel), I decided to brave the rain and wander around for what I told myself would be a 30 minute walk.

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I first came across a beautiful Jewish synagogue. It’s one of the top 10 sites of Budapest, and I can absolutely see why. The details were beautiful.

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I continued wandering, and found the main part of town, near the river. Budapest was originally two towns, one called Buda, and the other Pest, and they are separated by the river. They became a unified city, and went with a simple name “Budapest”.

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Even though I was there in mid-November, it still felt very fall-like while I was there. As I crossed the river, I came across a beautiful park, which had amazing green, yellows, oranges and reds. Unfortunately, due to the rainy weather, the colours don’t pop in the below picture nearly as much as they did in life.

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By the time I wondered past the synagogue, and over the river, my original 30 minute plan of wandering had already been close to an hour. I snapped the below selfie, as I was laughing at myself for the ridiculousness of not having an umbrella! Unfortunately, I never did find anywhere that was open, so I put my hood up, and continued wandering around in the rain. I kept telling myself I would turn around in 10 more minutes, but then would see something else that I wanted to see. Finally, I asked myself what would I remember at the end of the trip? Would I remember toughing it out and seeing the sites around me, or would I remember the fact that I got a little wet, and so spent the day in my hotel? Even a month and a half later, I remember that  I got wet, but it’s more of a fond memory that I’m really glad I have. Especially as next on my list of things to see was Budapest Castle.

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The below is the first glimpse I had of the Budapest Castle. At the time I was walking by, I didn’t actually realise that’s what it was, so I snapped this picture, thinking it was just a pretty stand-alone building.

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To get up to the Budapest castle, you can either take a short train ride, or you can walk up the stairs. Since I was already soaking wet from being in the rain, I decided to continue going, and rather than taking the below train ride, opted for the stairs.

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Due to taking the stairs, I ended up being able to wander all around without paying anything. It was probably one of the cheapest travel days that I’ve ever had! The castle itself was beautiful, and had me continuing to wander around, despite the fact it was starting to get dark, and I was getting cold.

The castle was completed in 1265 (which is almost 300 years before Canada was discovered by the French, fun fact). Hungary was formerly part of Austria (as per my last post, Austria used to be a larger empire than it now is), so the castle was actually for the Hasburg family (the Austrian royal family). I didn’t have much of a chance to explore the castle, but if I ever come back, I would spend more of my time here.

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As the sun set, I enjoyed the beautiful views that the castle showcased.

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By the time I got back to my hotel, I had walked just over 14 km. I was completely soaked and chilled to the bone. I thankfully had packed myself a pair of sweats (as my plan had always been to enjoy the evenings in my hotel), so I changed into those, a pair of fuzzy socks, and enjoyed some wine and chocolate while I warmed up.I was right in the middle of a busy area with several restaurants, so I was able to enjoy some food within 10 feet of my hotel, and then slept amazingly well.

The next morning, the sun was (thankfully) shining again. I found a cute little coffee shop, where the owner was originally from London so made my ordering process much easier! I took my coffee to go, and sat outside the Jewish synagogue, and people watched; while also enjoying the sun, and journaled a bit. It was a moment of perfect contentment, and I could’ve sat there for the rest of the day.

However, I did eventually get myself to move, and I walked up to the beautiful thermal baths. I went to Szechenyi Thermal Bath. Hungary has many thermal springs, and Budapest is known as “City of Baths”. I’ve always wanted to check out a European bath house, so that’s exactly what I did.

The Szechenyi Thermal Bath was beautiful. It was built in 1913, and has 3 pools outside, and 13 inside. Each pool is a different temperature (with the coldest being just 19 degrees, and the warmest being 38).  I sat and soaked in the water for the better part of the afternoon- enjoying the sun and some relaxation. At one point, I even had a nap on an indoor sitting area.

At first it felt kind of weird to be there by myself. I would’ve loved to be sat with my friends, and enjoying it. However, the longer I sat there, the more I just relaxed into my own thoughts, and stopped feeling self conscious that other people were noticing anything about me. It ended up being one of the most relaxing experiences that I have had, as it was almost meditative as I sat in the water and just enjoyed myself.

 

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On the way back from the thermal baths, I stopped at “Heroes square”, which commemorates Budapest’s 1,000 year old history. I would’ve completely missed it, however I had to walk right by it, to get back to my hotel.

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And from there, I headed to the airport, as my short 4 day solo-trip was done. I thought Budapest was absolutely beautiful, but Vienna was my favourite due to the palace tour I had gone on.

Due to Assen’s and my schedule opening up very last minute, we ended up flying to New York the very next day! I had booked my Vienna/Budapest trip a couple months in advance, however we only booked our flight to New York 6 days before we left! It was very spontaneous and made even more exciting because of that. We had such an early flight that I didn’t even bother going to bed. By the time my flight landed from Budapest, and I took all the trains/taxis needed to get back to Cambridge, it was already 1 am. I unpacked from my trip, and re-packed for New York, had a quick shower, and we were off to the airport.

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More on that in a bit- promise!

Has anyone else been to Budapest? What did you think of it?

My 2 day trip to Vienna

Hi friends,

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! Assen and I went to Munich, Germany before Christmas, and then were back in Cambridge for Christmas Day to spend with some friends. We’ve been pretty lazy since Christmas Day, but are heading up to Scotland for New Year’s with Assen’s mom, so we’re having a nice mix of site seeing, and relaxing time.

While I build up to our trip in Germany (and eventually our trip to Scotland), I first have a few other trips to catch up on! Including Vienna and Budapest, which I went on my own, and then Assen’s and my trip to New York.

So in hopes of getting caught up: Vienna

I did a 4 day trip through Vienna and Budapest, with 2 days in each place and taking the train between the two. Fun fact- Vienna and Budapest are the closest 2 country capitals in the world. The train takes about 2 and a half hours from one to the other.

My first day in Vienna, I arrived about mid-afternoon and spent the day just wondering around the main touristy parts of town. I love Christmas markets in Europe, and Vienna was already all set up with them, and they seemed to be everywhere, so I enjoyed looking at all the various items that vendors were selling.

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Anytime I go anywhere in Europe, I always try and go up to the top of at least one of the buildings for a view of the city. In Vienna, it was St Stephen’s cathedral. However, for anyone who’s going, I wouldn’t really recommend it. The view is pretty (as per below), but it is entirely enclosed. When you get to the top, it’s a gift shop and 4 windows where you can look out at. It was difficult to get into the window, and even then, you had to get really close to the glass for a nice picture. I would probably say save your money and skip this one.

DSC05715 I found in Vienna that about half the time, I had no idea where I was, but continued to come across amazing sites. Usually when I’m in a new place, I’ll find the main site (in this case, it was the cathedral) and then just wander around. It lets you see a lot of the main sites, as usually the big touristy spots are all quite close together, as well as sometimes it’s just nice to walk around and see what you come across. To quote Dumbledore “Not all that wander are lost”.

Case in point, while wandering, I came across many of the “things to see” places in Vienna, and the below, which I thought was a summer palace, but later found it that it wasn’t that (though I still have no idea what it actually was). However, the gardens were amazing, and the sun setting was so picturesque against the building. I sat here for awhile and took quite a few pictures.

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Once the sun had set, I wandered over to the parliament building, which was very Roman inspired.

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The last place I came across was my favourite Christmas market that I found. The building was City Hall, and the market in front had live music, many snow globes (apparently, snow globes were originally invented in Vienna), as well as mulled wine. You paid a deposit for the cup of mulled wine, and then could walk around the market while you drank it. I did exactly that (and kept the cup as a memento rather than returning it for a repayment of my deposit). It really started to feel like Christmas while I walked around.

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The next day, I was up bright and early to go to Schonbrunn Palace. This was one of my favourite palaces I’ve seen in all of Europe. First of all, the palace itself has 1,441 rooms! Now, for those of you who aren’t so good with history (which includes myself-I’ve learnt so much through my travels), Vienna and Austria as a whole was an incredibly powerful nation  for a very long time. The royal family, the Hasburg family, was one of the most important Royal families in all of Europe. I found nowhere demonstrated this, as much as I found this palace did. It was absolutely breathtaking!

The tour itself lets you wander through various rooms, with an audioguide giving you background information about certain key individuals and the rooms that your in. Two which I remember are Maria Teresa, who was the last of the Hasburg’s, and she had 11 daughters and a couple of sons- one of her daughters was Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France; the other key individual was Empress Elizabeth, known as ‘Sisi’. She was the Empress in the later 1800’s and early 1900’s, and I was so interested in her after the tour that I bought her biography in the gift shop, and am currently reading about her life!

Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the palace, but it’s decorated in the splendor that it was back in the day. Some of the more amazing rooms, were the Walnut Room, the Great Gallery , and the Millions Room.

However, since it was such a nice sunny day, after the tour, I enjoyed wandering around the beautiful grounds.

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Attached to the Shonbrunn palace, are many gardens and other grounds. Included in this area, is a zoo. It is the oldest zoo in the world, and it has supposed to be more modern as well, so while at the palace, I also checked out the zoo. The main animals I wanted to see were the polar bears and the pandas.

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Since I was by myself on this trip, I would wake up early in the day to explore, and then as it got dark, I would head back to my room for a relaxing evening. On the second day in Vienna, I bought myself some wine, cheese and crackers, and sat out on my balcony and relaxed for a couple of hours. It was a great evening after spending the past two days walking extensively through Vienna.

I was up bright and early the next day, as I wanted to ensure I had a lot of time at the train station to catch my train to Budapest. As this post is getting a bit long, I’ll be back later this week/early next week for part 2 of this holiday, my trip to Budapest.

I’d love to hear about any one else’s recent travel plans as well :) Or if you’ve been to Vienna, what your favourite part was!

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Bulgaria, trip #2

Hi friends,

I’m back today with a bit longer of a post! Remember way back in August when I went to Bulgaria?

Well I have finally got around to uploading these pictures!

This trip was really nice. Originally we had planned to also go to Istanbul, Turkey for a few days, along with spending some time in Bulgaria, but unfortunately due to some visa issues I had (my passport was expiring in a month’s time but you need to have a visa that is good for 6+ months in order to get a visa), we were unable to go. Instead, we had a relaxing time in Bulgaria.

Everytime I go to Bulgaria, it’s a very different experience than when I go on any other vacation. This is because Assen is from Bulgaria, and therefore the point of the trip isn’t to explore but instead a chance for him to see his friends and family. It’s an interesting experience for me to see a different side of a country, as I spend a lot of my time with locals; but sometimes it’s a bit lonely as well, since I’m usually the odd one out, as I don’t speak Bulgarian and a lot of Bulgarians either don’t speak English, or feel shy to speak English to me.

Assen usually will try and incorporate in a few fun trips for me, to try and make it more exciting and interesting for me. This year’s trip, we went and saw these “rock mushrooms”, explored Perperikon, and spent a few days at the sea-side.

First up, the rock mushrooms.

These rocks are formed by a result of volcanic eruptions that occurred undersea about 55-65 million years ago. After the sea withdrew, the erosion became more noticeable. They were quite interesting to see, as typical of Bulgarian sites, you could get right up to them and take pictures with them- whereas you’d think most thinks that old would be sectioned off.     DSC05461

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On a separate day of exploring, we went exploring to a site which has been around for 7,000 years. It was a hot, sunny day (I’m missing those right now) so we were all slowly melting as we explored. As Assen and I were with his mom, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend, we had a Bulgarian guide telling them facts about the site. Then Assen was stuck with the job of translating it into English for me.

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The site was Perperikon, which is located on a high rocky hill and is believed to be a sacred site. It was established in the Copper age, with individuals believing in the Sun God. As time went on, the religion continued to change, with eventually there being the first church of its kind being built there (though only the base still exists).

According to legend, two crucial prophecies were made at this location. One predicted the glory and fame that Alexander the Great would achieve, and the second, made several centuries later, predetermined the power and strength of the Royal Emperor Julius Caesar Augustus.

Again, I found it interesting that despite this being an extremely old, and historically important, piece of land in Bulgaria, you were still able to climb over everything. The site was a royal site, and as such, in the below picture, I’m sat in the throne where previous Kings from thousands of years ago sat. I think I’m a little taller than those kings were…

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Also in the area, were sacrificial spots. Whilst we were told they were “mainly” animals, their were occasionally human sacrifices as well at that time.

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The view from the ruins was absolutely amazing.

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After a couple of days of exploring the ancient sites, we arrived at the sea side and checked into our beautiful hotel. One of my favourite things of Bulgaria is how cheap it is compared to the rest of Europe. They have beautiful sand beaches, and amazing hotels. This hotel was 5 star, all inclusive, and we were staying for less than what I’ve paid for an ok-room in Western Europe.  DSC05542

For 3 days, we laid around the beaches, drank lots of mint beverages (a Bulgarian speciality- a mint flavoured liquor with sprite), and relaxed. One of the days, we splurged at the spa. Again, since the prices were so cheap, I couldn’t help myself and ended up getting a massage and a facial, as it was still only about £50!

The night after spending the day at the spa, we went for fresh mussels out at a mussel farm. Assen had told me about the mussel farms beforehand, but we didn’t have a chance to go on our last trip. Unfortunately it was too dark to get very good pictures, but we were sat at the edge of the water, and you could see all the mussels in the water. You know it’s fresh when you can see where they’re harvesting the mussels from!

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After our 3 days of lazing around the beach, we headed to a different beach town to meet up with Assen’s friends for a night out.

Last year, I spoke about chalga music and how it’s a popular form of music in Bulgaria. This year, for our night out, we ended up staying out until about 4 in the morning, dancing away to chalga music as confetti rained down from the ceiling (and by “confetti”, I mean “ripped up tnapkins”). It was a great night, however, when we had to check out of our hotel the next day at 10 am, none of us were feeling too chipper.

I headed back the following day, having driven back to the capital, Sofia. I’m sure I’ll be back in Bulgaria next summer, and I look forward to exploring more of the country.

DSC05573  Has anyone else been? I’d love to hear others’ experiences! I’ll be back soon to discuss my more recent trips too!

Last minute vacations!

Hi guys,

How was everyone’s weekend? Mine included two wine tasting fails (one which was a work event that I was supposed to attend but last minute couldn’t, and the other was because we didn’t pre-buy tickets and when we arrived, they were fully booked) and lots of relaxing. Despite the fails, it was a pretty good weekend!

I haven’t been posting for the past couple of weeks because I was away on a last minute holiday! About 3 weeks ago, Assen and I were in our living room and talking about holidays. I was already planning on going to Vienna and Budapest from 13-16 November, but then was going to be going back to work on the 17th. However, I’m a bit more slow at work right now (which has been amazing), and Assen had some client work which was cancelled last minute. So on the Wednesday night, we booked a flight too….

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New York City!

It ended up being quite a whirlwind trip, as this was the schedule of my 8 day travels:

November 13: I had an early morning flight to Vienna, which meant I was leaving my house at 4 am to catch the bus that would take me to the airport. The night before, Assen and I had gone out to a charity event which was listening to some local live music, and then got home and I had to pack. This meant that I had 3 hours of sleep that night.

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November 14th: Had a nice relaxing day, where I was actually able to explore around Vienna.

November 15th: I was taking the train from Vienna to Budapest. Due to the Paris bombings on the night of the 13th, I had heard varying reports of borders closing, enhanced security, etc. Therefore, I was at the train station by 7 am, to ensure that I wouldn’t end up missing my train. I had planned to nap on the train, but ended up sitting next to an Australian girl so we chatted the time away.

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November 16th: I had the day to explore, and then had to be at the airport for 7 pm to catch my flight home. Because I live in Cambridge, anytime I fly back home, I fly into one of the London airports and then still have to sort out transportation home. So my flight landed at about 11 pm into London, and by the time I took the train, and taxi home, it was about 1:30 am. I unpacked, and then repacked for my trip. There was no point going to sleep, so I uploaded my pictures onto my laptop, and relaxed for a couple hours. We were leaving the house at 4:30 am, to drive to the airport for our New York flight.

November 17th-20: Explored New York City and tried to get used to the 5 hour time change and get caught up on some sleep.

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November 21st-22nd: Because we had booked our flights extremely late, and had gotten a very cheap deal on them, we did not have a direct flight coming back. Our trip back was:

Getting to the airport- anyone ever going to NYC, DO NOT DRIVE TO THE AIRPORT! It took us 3 hours to get t the airport, and by subway, would’ve taken us an hour and a half. Traffic was absolutely terrible. We only had to drive 35 miles, but we sat in traffic for so long that it took us that long. Thankfully, we were spending the day with Assen’s dad (who lives in New Jersey) and his cousins, and they knew it was going to take that long so we left with enough time that we still arrived at the airport with enough time to check into our flight.

Flight #1- We first flew to Toronto. The flight from NYC to Toronto is just over an hour so that part wasn’t too bad. The part that wasn’t ideal was that we landed in Toronto at 11 pm. We were both starving so managed to find the one place still open (Starbucks) and after buying 2 tea lattes, 2 sandwiches, 2 bottles of water, and a dessert for each of us (which cost us $45!) we found a comfy spot to lay out. As we had an 8 hour lay-over.

We had debated getting a hotel, but the airport hotel was going to be over $200, and we would’ve been there for about 6 hours, so figured we would just tough it out at the airport. I tried to lay down on some chairs that we found and sleep, but the airport was very cold, and the chairs were very uncomfortable so I probably got an hour or two of sleep. Assen stayed up and watched our stuff, so he slept for about an hour at the end, once I told him we would switch off and I would stay awake.

Flight #2- finally the long night in the airport was over, and we were able to go through security at about 6 am. I wanted to buy a few things which I can only get in Canada (mainly ketchup chips, nibs, and a Tim Hortons coffee) and wanted to get something for Assen since he’s never been in Canada before. I ran around trying to get everything before we finally boarded our plane

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Our flight home, since we were landing in London at 8:30 pm on Sunday evening, was a struggle to stay awake. I have a whole post coming up about how I try and deal with jet lag so I won’t go into too much detail here, but the main thing is trying to get on the new time zone as quickly as possible. Therefore, I tried to stay awake for the entire flight, so I would be tired when we landed.

The bad part of that plan was that by the time we landed, got our car, and drove back to Cambridge and into bed, it was 2 am. And I was back to work the next day!

So after the whirlwind trip which included a lot of late nights, with early mornings, and getting used to time changes, I’ve spent most of the past week in a tired fog.

However, I am finally feeling like I am back on UK time, and well rested, so I will be posting more details later this week about the trip, along with pictures of everything!

How has everyone else been for the past couple of weeks?

Also- how do you deal with crazy time changes and early flights?

Social media and Essena O’Neill

Hi everyone,

How’s your week going?

I’m off to Austria (Vienna) and Hungary (Budapest) later this week, so it feels like days are passing very slowly because I’m so excited for Friday morning!

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Has everyone seen the postings about the 19-year old Australian woman, who made it big on social media and is now fighting back? If not, here’s a link to the story:

Essena O’Neill’s story

Recently, I saw on Facebook, a “counter” to her comments:

Zack James counter message

For those that didn’t want to read the articles, here’s a brief summary: Essena made it big on social media. Now, at the age of 19, she’s going back and saying how fake it was. Wishing she had spent the past few years of her life doing things that matter, and not valuing her worth based on her looks. She’s gone through her posts on Instagram and posted true captions, how many photos taken, how she got the picture, what’s been sponsored, etc. She blames Social Media for essentially losing those years of her life. The counter is a man, Zack James who says that she needs to take some responsibility for her own life and choices, and says there is nothing wrong with Social Media in itself.

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The above is Essena O’Neill (she’s 15…)

I read both of these articles and had a few differing opinions. But before I go into this, let’s just accept that they both have their own motivations. Zack James owns a social media platform, so he will want people to continue to consume social media as we always have. Essena O’Neill is creating her own platform, and is encouraging others to use it for a more wholesome experience. So let’s accept they have their own motivations, and just put that aside.

Personally, I kind of think they’re both right in some aspects, but they’re both wrong as well.Why do I say that?

Well, firstly, Essena has had a lot of advantages because of Social media. It sounds like she made pretty decent money from the products she was placing. She wouldn’t have had those opportunities without social media. She was able to capitalise on a market, and found success within. That for me, is a positive for social media that wasn’t an option even 10-15 years ago.

I personally, love social media. I enjoy posting photos from my life, or sharing links I enjoyed. But a lot (all?)of social media behaviour is faked to create an illusion of perfection. Everyone posts their favourite moments, and no one posts their real lives. We post our crazy adventures and it feels good when people like it! Blogging is the same way- I like blogging because I enjoy the act of it. But it feels really good when someone comments on my post, or if a friend tells me they liked something I wrote. We all want to be social accepted, and social media can give us a contrived sense of that.

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My social acceptance above through a group photo from my yoga teacher training program.

I’m not going to put up a Facebook post telling everyone how I had a shitty day, or that I fought with my boyfriend, or that I washed my dishes, and I would say that’s true for most people. I experience all of those things but I’m not going to post about it- because that isn’t socially acceptable social media behaviour.

Because of this Social Media is wrong in a lot of ways. It promotes unrealistic expectations for our life and our bodies. When I looked at Essena’s photos, I was jealous of her body. She’s beautiful! Yet in a lot of those photos, she’s 15! My body will never again look like a 15 year olds, because I am 29 (almost 30!) and therefore my body has matured and developed. And this is another way that young people, and specifically in this case, women, are being shown that they’re worth is based on how they look.

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Would she have gotten those contracts if she looked like an “average” 15 year old? What about if she was an average-looking 30 or 40 year old? Chances go down even further that those opportunities would be the same. We are a youth obsessed culture, and we praise thinness above all else.

So that’s where I think Zack James is wrong. She cannot take full accountability of the situation, as in some ways, she has been taken advantage by Social Media. She’s been told (and through the actions of all those following her, shown) that her worth is based on how she looks each day. And while that is not a new message, it is a message that took her 5 years to unlearn and find something new.

As well, by her coming clean that these are not photos that just happened to be snapped as she was walking out of her house- but instead were a production of lighting, make-up, working out, counting calories- it shows the honesty. It shows people that this is not how anyone looks naturally, and it took effort. And hopefully it will make a few people feel better about themselves, when they first wake up and their hair is sticking in a million directions and they have a few zits on their chin.

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This is me (and my mom) when we wake up! No make up and messy hair!

What do you guys think? What are your thoughts from this?

Also- for some positive Social Media, check out these Instagram profiles to follow for some positive body images, link courtesy of Buzzfeed:

13 Body Postivie Instagram Accounts

And feel good about who you are today.